Obama`s Father`s Lifestyle….

Posted on November 17, 2008. Filed under: 1 |

By John Oywa and George Olwenya

He loved style and elegance. A tobacco pipe, a parted hairdo, and generosity were some of his conspicuous trademarks.

A Harvard-educated economist, Barack Hussein Obama Snr, was as charming as he was intelligent. He lived big, inspired many of his peers and “died thoroughly” in a freak road accident in Nairobi.


Friends remember him saying with his decorated academic resume, he wanted to live a good life so that when he was to die he would die ‘thoroughly’.

“I want to do my things to the best of my ability. Even when death comes, I want to die thoroughly,” they recall him say.

Like his celebrated son, Barack Obama, who weathered the storm to make history as the first black man to become America’s President, Obama Sr was an intellectual per excellence, according to his friends.

They remember him as an extremely proud man, a go-getter, a womaniser, and a generous person, who shared his resources with friends to the last penny.

He drove the latest car models, wore the best suits, and drank the most expensive whisky brands.

Known as Barry “Wuod Akumu Nyanjoga” (the son of Akumu daughter of Njoga), Obama Sr towered over his peers with authority. He was a man of the people and always spoke of big dreams.

The seed he planted in 1961, in America, is today the toast of the world.

A beneficiary of the famous airlifts to the US, organised by the then Planning Minister Tom Mboya in 1959, Obama Sr went to America, saw and conquered. By the time he returned in 1964, his son with an American college mate, Ms Ann Dunham, was bubbling with energy.


Obama Sr wined and dined with both the lowly and the mighty. By the time of his death, names of his friends read like who was who in the Government.

President Kibaki was among the top politicians who topped in Obama Sr’s list of friends.

“He was a great man. He was popular, jovial and always calm. There was some air of uniqueness around him and I am not surprised when his son emerged from nowhere to shock the world,” says former Kisumu deputy Mayor Benjamin Okang’ Tolo. In 1978, Tolo hosted a party for him in Kisumu to appreciate his academic achievements.

“It was a big party and many of his friends were at my house. On that day he brought with him a beautiful woman known as Jael, who was to become his fourth wife,” says Tolo.

The 75-year-old adds he knew Obama Sr when he worked for BP/Shell in Nairobi.

“One of his friends was President Kibaki. One day when I was walking with him in Nairobi, Kibaki, then the Minister for Finance stopped his car next to us and offered him a lift,” says Tolo.

He adds: “The President rode with him to his office and I am told that was the day he got a job in the Treasury as an economist.”

Kibaki was to later come to Obama Sr’s rescue when he was sacked for allegedly protesting the assassination of his mentor — Tom Mboya — in July 1969.

US President-elect Barack Obama and his sister Auma when Obama visited his father’s home in 2006.

Tolo says Obama Sr will be remembered for his love for education.

“He always told his friends to educate their children. To him education was the best investment one could make. Because of him, I spent all my resources in educating my children and I am now reaping the fruits,” says the former civic leader.

Hundreds of senior politicians and friends attended his emotional burial in 1982. Luo leaders present were the former Foreign Affairs Minister, the late Robert Ouko and former Education Minister Oloo Aringo, among others.

A former political detainee and a long time aide to the late opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Mr Odungi Randa, who met Obama Sr on many occasions, says the economist, was cut for bigger things.

“Obama Sr did not realise some of his dreams but his son has made him proud in death,” says Randa.

He adds thoughtfully: “What Obama has achieved is a direct result of good education. We must thank the late Mboya and Jaramogi, who organised these airlifts to America and the East.”
“Mboya took Obama Sr to America. His son is now the US President. Jaramogi took Raila Odinga and others to Germany, Russia and other Eastern block countries. Raila is the Prime Minister,” he says.

But no one has fonder memories of Obama Sr than Mzee Sebastian Peter Okoda; a former senior Government official, who shared his residential house in Nairobi with him for a year.

Okoda and Obama Sr stayed in the same flat at Dolphin Court Flats near Caledonian Shopping Centre.

He says that when he joined the Treasury in December 1974, he was given a Government house where he stayed with his wife.

He and Obama worked together and could occasionally interact since they both hailed from Alego in Siaya District.

Obama, one of the leading economists by then, was a senior officer in the planning department. Okoda was an assistant secretary at the fiscal and monitoring department.

Obama Sr with his son. [PHOTOs: stafford ondego/STANDARD]

The 70-year-old says one evening; Obama asked him if they could put up together because he had not got a house.

“I did not bother to know where he had been staying, but I obliged. We stayed together for more than a year,” he says.

The duo lived together from 1976 to February 1977 in Flat 5; a three-bed room house reserved for senior Government officers.

“I gave him one of the bedrooms. When my wife came from the village she cooked and we could eat together when we were not visiting friends,” recalls Okoda.

The old man says he was 45 then and they were age-mates and he never bothered to discuss about their marital background, but he knew Obama had more than one wife.

He can remember Obama’s first wife Kezia and eldest son Abong’o Malik visited them at the residence. “Kezia visited us once and she even spent a night.”

Okoda says Obama had access to top civil servants and business executives who treated him as one of their own.

Always neat in his dressing and sometimes sporting a brown leather jacket, he says Obama, whom they referred to as Barry, would go for the best drinks and finest brands of cigarettes.

“If people could be made and cut out for anything in particular then one could say that Obama (Sr) was actually made for the best, he would go for nothing short of that,” says Okoda.

Adding: “He loved the bottle but was very choosy. He would only touch whiskies such as Johnnie Walker and Vat 69. For cigarettes, Barry smoked 555, State Express and Rex.”

And his orders came in double tots, a characteristic that earned him the name “Double Double” from his friends.

His taste for the very best was not restricted to smoke and drinks, Okoda says.

“Executives would call on us at our residence and we could go out for business lunches and entertainment,” he says.

Among his friends, the old man remembers, was former Cabinet Minister Nicholas Biwott, who was then Personal Assistant to the VP and now retired President Moi.


He also remembers Mr Joseph Kipsanai, the then under-secretary, fiscal and monitoring division at the Treasury and Mr J B Omondi, the then deputy secretary at the External Aid department in the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

“They were so many and it is now a long time since I retired in 1980 and left the city. I cannot remember some of them since many have also died,” says Okoda.

And because Obama enjoyed some of the best places in the city Okoda says they could find themselves at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, and Hotel Boulevard among others.

He recalls Obama was a generous man and would always give gifts to friends and the needy.

He remembers one day in 1976 when Obama got his allowances ready to travel abroad on official duties while still at the Treasury.

Obama, he says, was to fly out at night and was paid Sh7,000 pocket money.

Pipe and drink

“This was a lot of money then and he decided to take friends out in the evening before the trip.

“We spent the whole evening at the Revolving Tower restaurant, KICC. He entertained us and bought drinks until the money ran out,” says Okoda.

After spending the whole amount entertaining friends, Obama had to use other sources for pocket money before he dashed to the airport.

For the period they stayed together, Okoda says Obama was never annoyed most of the time, but he recalls one day he expressed disappointment with his employer.

He says Obama told him he was being under-paid yet he was more educated than other people getting huge salaries.

In his own words, Okoda said Obama told him “Pesa michula en pesa ma ahingo” (I’m being paid peanuts).

Okoda says he does not know if Obama Sr ever had anything to do with Islam during the time they lived together.

“Except the name Hussein, Obama cared little for religion and denominations.” One occasion he said, “When I die, I die thoroughly.” Okoda says this suggests a disbelief in after-life.

The duo parted ways when Okoda was transferred to Nyeri to become the Personal Assistant to the then Central PC Simeon Nyachae.

Since he had to hand over the house to the Government, Obama moved to Mawenzi Gardens (Upper Hill).

“I am so impressed when I heard the son of my old friend has captured the highest office in the world.”

The man Barack Obama Senior

Barack Hussein Obama Sr was born in the sun-baked terrains of Kanyadhiang’ village, Rachuonyo District in 1936. His father, Onyango Obama, who later moved to settle in Alego-Kogelo in Siaya District, was a colonial cook. Those who knew him say it was because of his hard-line domestic policies that turned his children into achievers. Although he and his son Obama Sr were buried in Kogelo, where his stepmother Sarah Obama and other family members live, Onyango spent his early life in Karachuonyo. Onyango was recruited to fight in the Second World War. When he returned, he had converted to Islam and acquired the name Hussein. His first wife — Akumu Nyanjoga — the mother to Obama Sr died, and he married Sarah Ogwel — the now popular granny who brought up Obama Sr. Obama Sr was the second born in a family of four. It was in Karachuonyo where Obama Sr married his first wife, Kezia in 1956. “We met at a party on December 25. I was 16 and he was about 20. He picked me among many girls. We danced and a relationship blossomed,” Kezia says. Obama Sr loved education and politics. He had his early education at Gendia Primary School, near Kendu Bay, before moving to Ng’iya Intermediate School in Siaya. He capped it at the Maseno School, where teachers described him as an exceptionally bright student. Records at the Maseno School show Obama Sr was promoted from class B to A because of his good grades.

He was 23 when he was shortlisted for the famous airlifts to the US. The road accident that killed him was the second. He had earlier broken his legs in another accident.

lifted from standard.Topic by butdoisay


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